Sunday, September 27, 2015


This question came up recently.  Have we wasted our lives on Tango?

Let's see, just in dollar terms.  We started dancing 2004.  We didn't go to milongas right away, and we went to more classes and workshops than milongas for the first year, but in ballpark terms for the 12 years (give or take) that we have been dancing, we have spent perhaps the following:

1 year of weekly classes $10 x 2 x 52 weeks = $1,040.00

3 milongas a week 3 x $10 x 2 x 52 weeks x 12 years = $37,440.00

Workshops, festivals, special events etc: $4,000.00 (approximate)

10 trips to Buenos Aires (all expenses including airfare) averaging $7,500.00 per trip = $75,000.00

Clothes, CDs, shoes, Instructional DVDs or videos = $5,000.00

plus 10% transportation, meals, first aid from getting kicked in the shins etc: A GAZILLION BILLION DOLLARS (or approximately $134,728.00)

That's a nice downpayment on an income producing condo!  Factor in the lost opportunity costs of spending time kissing ass or networking for a better job, getting a profitable side gig for even more income (well, you can always use Tango as side gig, but we didn't), doing paid freelancing work instead of writing unfiltered unpopular crap on this blog and we are out like, A GAZILLION BILLION DOLLARS and must work until we are 85 years old before we can retire.

Oh crap.

Not to mention instead of spending quality time with family and friends outside of Tango "building strong interpersonal relationships", we are spending time with you guys.  We don't even know your full names or what you do - although we may know what your favourite orchestra is and that you are also annoyed when the organizer makes speeches that are cutting in on your dance time.

All this for a chance to hug the same (or different) strangers every week?  As my Mom and Dad would exclaim: "Ridiculous!" and "Sunken Costs!"*

*This is also the term they use to refer to Irene, as in "After all the $$$ I've spent on your education I think it would be more worth it to give birth to a piece of BBQ pork than to give birth to you!  At least I can eat the BBQ pork."  Ha ha, nice try folks I know that deep deep deep down you might like me just a little.

Mom and Dad are too polite to say anything to the Tango crazy daughter and son-in-law but if they dared they may say something like this:

"Look at your sister and brother.  They've been working hard all this time and not only do they have important jobs, big houses and fancy cars, they have babies!  Aunt Edna's son is now the Vice-President of ____________ (Big Powerful Association).  And what's more, our neighbour Doug and Tammy's kid is like, the Archbishop of Canterbury!  What have you done these past twelve years?  All you have to show for all that Tango is a bunch of videos of you dancing on Youtube that people have to wash their eyes out after watching and a closet full of worn out Tango shoes!"

Maybe it's time to contemplate a little on the disastrous wastage that is the Tango life of Irene and Man Yung.....

....OK, finished contemplating!  No worries.  So long we can still put food on the table and have a roof over our heads (and tango shoes on our feet), what are we going to do with the fancy cars, big houses, and babies?  Important job = more stress, more wrinkles and gray hair and maybe even heart attack, don't need more of that and would rather keep my health, thanks.

However, being the Archbishop of Canterbury is tempting, I must say.

 If we didn't waste all that time dancing Tango, we could possibly aspire to be 
The Archbishop of Canterbury.  Yum.

And why not do something every week that means something to us, that gives us pleasure, that makes us feel alive?  Why not light up at the sight of all you fellow Tango time and money-wasters, week after week? You are kind of even more like family than our real family now, and we probably love you a great deal more.

Tango:  A dance with you is worth A GAZILLION BILLION TRILLION DOLLARS AND it's all love, no regrets.  Except that Archbishopy thing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Sudden Consciousness" Hamburger

With the right state of mind, even this hamburger made of cloth and stuffing can be the most delicious meal you've ever had in your life

Man Yung didn't used to be a fan of hamburgers.

"But they are so delicious!" I protested.  "One of the most memorable meals in my life happens to be hamburger.  I had stopped in Aberdeen (on Hong Kong island) on the way home from school - probably to go to the library.  I hadn't had lunch but I didn't have a lot of money, so I went to McDonalds and ordered the cheapest sandwich they had - a plain hamburger with nothing but ketchup, onions and pickles in it.  Eating the hamburger super slowly while watching construction work next to the bus stop and waiting for the bus was a slice of heaven!  It was a taste explosion.  I relished every single bite."

Man Yung scoffed.  "Ah.  But you must have been very hungry."

"A growling, empty stomach added to my pleasure in eating the hamburger but do you understand?  It was one of my life's top culinary moments.  Perhaps even one of my life's top moments, period!"

"You obviously didn't go out much," said Man Yung, still scoffing.  "McDonald's hamburger! Objectively speaking, how could a hamburger taste better than a perfectly grilled t-bone steak?  Or 8 course omakase dinner at Kaji?  Or even stir fried double lobster with ginger and onion sauce?"

Although all experience is in truth subjective, I nevertheless set out to find the most objectively delicious hamburger for Man Yung, just to prove a point.  It wasn't easy.  The ones at the fast-food franchises are yucky and filled with preservatives.  He grumbled at the $15.00 loaded Angus beef hamburger at upscale burger joint M Burger, and found it dry and tasteless.  He refused to have the expensive ones with foie gras, truffle sauce and beef raised on Mozart and shiatsu massages.

I agreed, any burger costing more than $100 (or even $20) was kind of taking it overboard.

Ultimately, I made him a hamburger at home using one of Cook's Illustrated's recipes.

Bingo!  Man Yung had a taste and then looked at me in astonishment.   "Irene, you are right!  Hamburger is one of the most tasty foods around!"

So I kind of won that one...for the moment.  But it was easy for Man Yung to forget how great that burger was.  He starts scoffing after a while, like he couldn't believe that a humble burger could ever beat a plate of deep fried free range chicken marinated in fermented red tofu sauce (for example).  Or he would want to do something fancy with that burger, like put aged grated chenpi (mandarin orange peel) it, or eat it while standing on his head.  Or use a cut of beef of lesser quality.  Or a bread that is different.  Or skip the cheese.  Or pair it with an expensive red wine instead of the cheapo $8 Fuzion Shiraz Malbec we always get at the LCBO.

"Man Yung!  Stop experimenting," I said.  "The hamburger is good in and of itself, and it goes fine with the wine we were having.  It doesn't need to be fancied up."

"But you know I like to push the boundaries.  I cannot be satisfied until all possibilities have been tried and exhausted!" he said.

I don't argue.  I just serve hamburger again.  Man Yung will start eating, refusing to taste it at first due to mental clutter.  And then, in a moment of quiet, when his mind has emptied out....

"Wow Irene!"  He will look at me in surprise.  "How come?  This is one of the best foods I've ever tasted.  Hamburgers are amazing!"*

 * If only his mind would empty out like that when he is dancing!  Then he will realize that any tango he is dancing with me is amazing.  Instead, he gets all grumpy, spazzing out on the new steps he is attempting to replicate from Youtube because I don't get them right away.  And he wonders why dancing with me yesterday was not as great as dancing with me last week, when he hadn't been watching 150 hours of tango on Youtube!  Hurrrrrumph.   

For the curious, here's the recipe we have adapted from the Cook's Illustrated cookbooks for pan-fried hamburger - it's our own lazy version, but the results are good enough for us!

"Sudden Consciousness" Hamburger

Makes 4 Hamburgers


1 to 1 1/2 lbs of beef (Skirt steak or flap meat is the best, with a good balance between taste, gristle and fat, but is hard to find.  Deboned short rib is also good, rib eye and flank steak also acceptable)

4 Large, soft hamburger buns (we use D'Italiano Brizzolio buns)

Sliced cheese (Real cheese, not processed cheese or spread.  But you don't have to be really fancy - Cracker Barrel or anything like that is good enough.  We use Cracker Barrel sliced mozzarella)



1.  Pat the beef dry with clean paper towel.  Mince the beef either using a food processor or preferably manually using a chopping board and meat cleaver.  People familiar with cooking chinese cuisine and a dish called "Yuk beng" or steamed minced pork will know what we mean - you just chop the meat manually until it has the consistency of a a very course grind.

2.  Shape the ground beef into four equal patties.  Don't smoosh them smooth though, the patties should be loose and rough on the edges.

3.  Season the patties on both sides liberally with salt and ground black pepper.

4.  Heat your frying pan to medium low heat.  Put a pat of butter on the pan and once it melts (which it will pretty quickly) spread the butter evenly on bottom of the pan. Put two split hamburger buns  (four pieces total) interior side down onto the pan.  Squash the buns lightly down onto the pan into the hot butter with a fish slice/turner/spatula, checking the side of the bread on the surface of the frying pan after a few seconds to see whether it has become toasted.  Once the bread is toasted a golden brown (around 30 seconds to a minute), remove them to a plate toasted side up.   Add butter to the pan, repeat with with the remaining buns.

5.  Turn the heat up to medium high.  Add a pat of butter, spread on bottom of pan and add the beef patties into the melted butter to start frying the patties.  Do not move the patties once placed in the pan.

6.  After about one minute, when the edge of the patties start to look cooked and gray, turn the patties over with the fish slice to fry them on the other side.  The side that was fried first should be specked with a cooked crust of a light to medium brown colour.

7.  Cover the frying pan for a minute.  Uncover the frying pan, add one slice of cheese on top of each of the patties.  Turn off the heat and cover for 30 seconds more, or until the cheese has melted.

8.  Remove the patties and place them on top of the buns.

The hamburgers using the above method should come out rare or medium-rare, depending on the heat of your stove and the amount of beef in your patty.  Add whatever condiments you like on your burger.  I like to top with sunny side up eggs and bacon with mustard, mayo and ketchup.  Man Yung just eats it plain.   Serve with cheap and cheerful red wine.  Try to eat them with full and sudden consciousness!  They will be the best that you have ever tasted (subjectively speaking).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Winners and Losers

Another year, another "Mundial".  Quick, without googling - who won?  In fact (and without googling), who could name all the winners since 2004?  Irene* knows/thinks they are:

2004: Osvaldo and Coca
2005: Fabian Peralta and Natasha Poberaj
2006: Dante Sanchez and Ines Muzzopappa
2007: Daniel Naccuchio(?) and his partner Cristina Sosa (?)
2008: Did the Japanese couple win this one?
2009: Maybe it was the really young couple still in their teens??
2010: Some couple from Columbia???
2011: Didn't care/Don't remember
2012: Didn't care/Don't remember
2013: Didn't care/Don't remember
2014: Didn't care/Don't remember
2015: Didn't care/Don't know/Don't remember

*Man Yung just remembers Osvaldo and Coca and Fabian Peralta, the rest is a big blur of Didn't care/Don't know/Don't remember

Congratulations all the winners!  You must be winners, you won the big prize of being THE BEST TANGO DANCERS IN THE WORLD of __________ (fill in the year). And the rest didn't win, so they must be LOSERS. 

....Ha ha, just kidding, everyone is a winner!   Everyone who participated is a winner.  Everyone who didn't participate is a winner.  Do you dance Tango?  Then you are a winner!

A voice pipes up.  "Your Tango competition sucks.  How can everyone be a winner?  It's like kindergarten where everyone gets a gold star because you don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.  And without clear separation between the chaff and the wheat, how would I know who to take classes with?  Can't just put any ol' bum on the good ol' Tango resumé, I can't impress the chicks/dudes this way."

Alright.  Maybe not everyone is a winner.  Some Tango Dancers aren't winners, they're wieners - especially if:

-  They dance big and aggressive and you have to give them a big leeway on the dance floor to avoid being stabbed in the face by their high kicking stilettos
-  They use Tango as an excuse to grope people
-  They are so hung up on being stylish/elegant/authentic or on showing off they can't hear the music/don't feel the music/won't dance to the music why dance Tango at all please take up ballroom/disco or even line dancing

"Oh yeah, Irene - " says Man Yung "You're a loser too!  You don't know how to cabeceo!  Or maybe you do - it's just no-one in their right mind wants to cabeceo you."

"Loser yourself.  You had chance to make the big bucks as taxi dancer but you give it all for free!" I replied.

"How about loser times two?  Your feet maybe moving but your brain is thinking of zombie apocalypse and WalMart."

"Oh yeah?  Loser times infinity and then some!  How will you ever become a Milonguero if you can't stop trying out all the newest fancy moves from Youtube?"

"Who wants to be a Milonguero?  I like how I dance and all my twenty-million tricky make-you-fall-on your-face-steps perfectly fine!"

BIGGEST LOSERS:  Irene and Man Yung arguing over Tango.  Let's just stick to "If you dance Tango, you are a Winner!"

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